Returning a Car at the End of a Lease Term

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Bethany Hickey is a Content Manager and Writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs. She's a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. 

, Content Manager - September 9, 2021

If you leased your vehicle through a captive leasing company, such as Ford Motor Credit, then you can typically return it to any franchised dealer that sells the brand. However, returning a leased car doesn’t just start and end by dropping it off at a dealership.

Lease-End Inspection

A lease end actually starts around 90 days before the official contract end date. Around this time, the leasing company (or lessor) contacts you and may the process by arranging an end-lease inspection. Depending on the leasing company, you may get a kit in the mail a few months beforehand detailing everything you need to do to prepare for the end of the lease.

Most lessors require a vehicle inspection at lease end to evaluate the car's condition. This is usually done by a third party. If there's more than just normal wear and tear on the vehicle, the leasing company can charge you for damages, typically taking the cost out of the security deposit that you made at the beginning of the lease. In some cases, you may be given the option to repair the damages before you return the vehicle. The repairs are then inspected when you return the car.

Leased cars are typically prepared to be sold as certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles after lease-end. Ideally, leasing companies want vehicles returned in the same condition as when the lease started. If there are dents or scratches on the car, and they’re bigger than a quarter, then expect to pay for those damages.

Additionally, as you’re probably aware, leasing a vehicle means having mileage restrictions. If you go over your allotted mileage, then the leasing company can charge you per extra mile. If you’re under your mileage limit, then you don’t have to pay anything extra in terms of mileage fees.

Returning the Car to a Dealership

After the inspection, you can choose the dealership you want to return the vehicle to. In some cases, the leasing company will tell you where to go to drop it off, and often, it’s a local dealership in your area. However, you can almost always head to a franchised dealership that sells your vehicle’s brand – contact your leasing company to see if there are any restrictions on where you can return the car.

Typically, it’s easiest to return the leased vehicle to the dealership where you got it from. It can be a hassle for some dealers to return a leased car if they’re not the ones that handled it, but it’s still possible if allowed by the leasing company.

When you’re dropping off the vehicle, remember to bring all the keys (including extra sets if they were given to you).

If you have extra fees that need to be paid, such as over-mileage fees, excess wear and tear, and/or a disposition fee (return fee), those need to be paid as well. Disposition fees can range anywhere from $300 to $500, and it’s often used to cover the cost of cleaning and prepping the vehicle for sale as a CPO.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Since your lease is coming to an end, it's time to consider your next car. If you haven’t planned out your next vehicle just yet, then you can ask for a lease extension if you need more time. In many cases, lease extensions are month-to-month, and typically your payment stays the same but your mileage limit doesn’t increase. If you only need a week or so, you may be able to get an extension for as short as 10 days or less.

Or, if you don’t want to return the car, then you can look into a lease buyout. The cost of buying out your leased vehicle is in your leasing contract. Occasionally, you can finance the lease and sell it for a profit if the car is worth more than what it was predicted to be worth. And if you went over miles on your lease and you buy it out, then you don’t have to pay over-mileage fees to the leasing company.

Looking for Another Vehicle?

Auto leasing isn’t for everyone. For some borrowers, they prefer to finance their vehicle and avoid having to find and lease another car every couple of years. If you’re looking to finance your next vehicle, then start with us at CarsDirect. We’ve cultivated a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that assist borrowers with credit challenges to help them get into an auto loan. Complete our free and quick car loan request form, and we’ll look for a dealer in your local area.


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, Content Manager

Bethany Hickey is a Content Manager and Writer for Auto Credit Express, CarsDirect, and many other automotive blogs. She's a graduate from the University of Michigan-Flint, with a bachelor’s in English-Writing. 

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